In case you haven’t heard of Muse (code name), it is the new web design and publishing software by Adobe Systems. The program promises easy website creation without any knowledge of coding necessary. Adobe claims that the websites created by Muse incorporate the latest web standards. Graphic designers who want to design personal and professional websites should find the transition from Adobe InDesign to Muse smooth and effortless.Adobe Muse (code name)

Along with other web designers, my initial reaction to Muse was negative. I visited their site and began to think it was all just a practical joke. Out of curiosity (and as a loyal Adobe customer, perhaps?), I downloaded and installed the seemingly uninvited software.

Here is a quote taken from Muse’s homepage: “Create websites as easily as you create layouts for print. You can design and publish original HTML pages to the latest web standards without writing code.”

As a web designer with print background, I find this testimony difficult to grasp. It’s hard to believe that Adobe would think that print and the Web are the same medium (although good design principles should still apply). Just by looking at the websites created using Muse–including the source code–I can easily see a handful of glaring web no-no’s. But as this is only the beta release, I’m hopeful that Adobe will realize these imperfections and therefore generate fixes in future releases of Muse.

At first glance, Adobe Muse appears to be suited more for graphic designers who want to dabble in web design. I don’t quite see it taking off as the absolute end-all software to design a website. Not in the next five to seven years, at least. To be fair, I tried Muse for about a week. Let’s take a look at some red flags that I found:

Fixed-width layout

As I’ve written a few blogs back, responsive design must be kept in mind due to the various sizes of how we view websites. Muse ignores this completely, forcing the user to specify the width of the design and giving only a limited flexibility on how your site can react to various screen resolutions.

Accessibility and coding issues

I was taught to test the websites I’ve created by making sure the site degrades gracefully. It may be hard to believe, but there is still a percentage, albeit small, who use older browsers and with JavaScript turned off. Some of the links in a Muse-created website are rendered un-clickable after disabling JavaScript. Then we have the lengthy code output with over usage of div floats and inline CSS which are not cacheable by a browser. I see very little consideration for accessibility, page load performance, and good ol’ semantics. What happens when the site is handed off to a traditional web developer for site updates? It’s not looking like adding extra or advance functionality to the site will be easy.

Now, on to a few pluses:

Sitemaps and master pages

Much like InDesign, Muse makes good use of master pages. Anything edited or created on a master page will automatically be applied to any page with the master template. Furthermore, the auto-sitemap component is a helpful tool when brainstorming and rearranging or removing pages.

Drag-and-drop feature

Adobe Muse - Drag-and-dropI know this feature is not in its refined stage yet, but I like the ability to simply place different interactive elements such as a quick navigation bar, slideshows, tabbed and accordion panels, and a lightbox display. I would like to see more widgets as well as more options for further customization.

According to the engineers over at Adobe Muse’s support forum, most of the users’ critiques and suggestions are being taken into consideration. Here are just some of the features that are in the works for future versions:

  • The current version of Muse converts non-web-safe fonts to images. I’m predicting that future versions will allow the use of web fonts via the @font-face method.
  • Form widgets, layers panel, importing full Photoshop files, font previews, slick blog integration, align objects tool, spell checker, support for CMS-based functionality, etc. All this without having to use the arbitrary HTML panel, for it somewhat defeats the purpose of the whole “design without coding” declaration.
  • Muse is slated to come out of beta in early 2012. However, Adobe is only rolling Muse out by subscription, charging users $20 a month or $15 a month with a 1-year commitment ($180). Adobe expresses a particular benefit with the subscription service: everyone will always be on the latest version. Nevertheless, the majority of current users are completely against this, saying that there should be alternatives rather than making subscription a straight-cut rule. This option should be kept open if Adobe is looking to make Muse readily accessible.

What are your thoughts on this new product? Do you think it will take off with graphic designers as well as web developers? Feel free to voice your opinion below!


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